What is the Endocannabinoid System?
Cannabinoids (CB) are receptors that bind to G-proteins to change them and become secondary messengers, whose purpose is to go off and activate other particles. They have been linked to the involvement in brain function, such as control of movement, neuroendocrine regulation, and the brain’s response to painful stimuli. Two main CB receptors that have been found in our tissues are CB(1), which is primarily found in the Central Nervous System (CNS), and CB(2), which is found in the immune system. The system works on demand and endocannabinoids are released when a lipid precursor needs it.
CECD and the Effects on Illness
Because the endocannabinoid system has the highest receptor density of all the neurotransmitter systems, a deficiency helps explain the onset of illnesses characterized by a heightened sensitivity to pain. Illnesses this would include are migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS.
It is estimated that 23 million Americans suffer from migraines. One of the main causes of migraines is an increased amount of serotonin from the blood, our main reserve of the chemical in the body. The effects of cannabis on migraine suffers have seen a positive correlation between cannabis use and the efficacy of cannabinoids in acute migraine treatment. High levels of THC have shown to restrict the release of serotonin and relieving the symptoms of migraines. However, patients on low doses of THC have seen an increase in serotonin production, which for migraine sufferers is not the ideal situation. CBDs have also shown a positive effect on migraines due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
The widespread musculoskeletal pain felt by patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia can be attributed to a deficiency in serotonin, the molecule the brain uses to process and moderate pain. The anti-inflammatory qualities that cannabis possesses helps with pain management, while THC increases the production of serotonin, in low doses, helping to normalize levels of the pain management molecule in the body.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is often used as a wastebasket of all non-normal functioning bowels and is the most common referral diagnosis for gastroenterologists in America. Because IBS can be triggered by infection, dietary frivolity, or some other unknown cause, doctors currently prescribe a myriad of different neurotransmitter targeted drugs that often times have no clinical benefits. However, after first being discovered in the gut of a canine, endocannabinoids have been found to be important to GI function. The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis help alleviate symptoms of IBS and are best taken as a tincture or edible due to patients seeing stomach sensitivity when smoked.